Stefan Wissenbach, very consciously chose his job title as our Chief Engagement Officer. Yes, that’s still “CEO,” but the difference between “Chief Executive Officer” and “Chief Engagement Officer” is a huge one in terms of the perspective he brings to his work every day.

Job titles make a difference in how we see ourselves, how we perceive our work, and how we’re perceived by others. But most businesses don’t pay them much attention except when they’re advertising for a job opening. Even then, it’s typically just a default title.

Sometimes, job titles are left up to the employees to propose and management to either accept, decline or alter. But, we would like you to consider that a creative job title is an important way for you to support your employees in their careers, and, when chosen thoughtfully, can also improve employee engagement at work.

How job titles affect employees

“Companies should recognize that [job titles] are powerful symbols of who we are, what we can do, and what others can expect from us.” – London Business School professor Dan Cable, Harvard Business Review

Job titles affect how employees see themselves, and how they’re seen by others. They also affect how employees perceive your company and brand. They’re important to get right.

A job title an employee is proud to have, one that shows leadership in the workplace and makes handing out business cards a little more fun, leads to higher satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty.

Are job titles magic? Nope. But they are a significant way in which you can show your appreciation for, and understanding of, the hard work employees put in.

Job titles in recruitment

Job titles are one of the small details that can have a large impact on communicating your brand, and the employee experience, during the recruitment and hiring processes. They’re an extension of your branding and an indicator of what the social structure of the company is like.

Job titles in the workplace

If you didn’t have much wiggle room in your schedule, would you be more likely to take a meeting with the Global Operations Director, Head of Special Projects, Implementation Manager, or Executive Assistant? These, incidentally, are all job titles our very own indomitable Jayne Deakin has had over the past several years, and, if you don’t know who she is or how important her work is to our company, some of these titles sound like they have far more clout than others. (Don’t be fooled. Jayne has all the clout!).

This is to say, job titles affect other people’s expectations and perceptions of rank, importance, and power. So don’t underpower employees by giving them lackluster titles (or not changing their titles as their roles evolve) when they need to command respect.

Job titles on resumes

Part of being a brave, caring leader is to set up your employees for success now, and in the future, even when that future may not be with you. The job descriptions they have now will go on their resumes later, possibly affecting their ability to be hired for certain roles, and even affecting their pay grade. Of course, you shouldn’t inflate descriptions, but do make sure they’re accurate and change to reflect increasing responsibilities.

Job titles and employee engagement

London Business School professor Dan Cable consulted for a large European brewery and had employees make up their own job titles. He surveyed the employees and found 16% higher job satisfaction and 11% higher levels of engagement.

How to create job titles that support your staff

Asking employees to get involved in creating their own creative job titles is a wonderful exercise as a follow-up to forming your Engaged Purpose.

Professor Dan Cable’s methodology for retitling begins with employees reflecting on their job’s purpose, “who is served, who is affected by the quality of the work, and what value is created.” Very similar to how we suggest creating a company’s Engaged Purpose.

Professor Cable also includes what aspects of the job the employee does particularly well, or differently from other employees. He then has employees brainstorm potential new titles. “The exercise causes job incumbents to ask themselves, ‘What is the purpose of the work, and what is my unique connection to it?”

Which are exactly the kinds of questions we want employees asking to become more engaged with what they do, and why they’re doing it. Rebranding job titles around “the why of work,” as Professor Cable puts it, is an exercise in employee engagement.

Can job titles get too ‘creative’?

Yes, and/or it depends. In terms of using creative job titles as an extension of your branding, if your company culture is fun and creative, your job titles should be too. But, job titles should still clearly convey the central responsibilities of the job – clearly enough to be understood by your employees, and by anyone else viewing their future resumes. Job titles should also be descriptive enough so that any prospective hires can get a good sense of the jobs for which they might want to apply.

Note: If you post openings on job boards, creative job titles aren’t easily searchable. Of course, you can always use more creative titles internally and use their more common counterparts online.

In short, creativity is good, but don’t let anything get in the way of clarity. Clarity sets up accurate, actionable expectations.

List of creative job titles we love:

  • Genius (service tech)
  • Director of First Impressions (receptionist)
  • Project Meanie (project manager)
  • Creator of Opportunities (senior vice president of business development)
  • Wizard of Light Bulb Moments (marketing director)
  • Chief Chatter (Call Center Manager)
  • Duck Row Keeper (product development manager)

Examples of fun CEO job titles:

  • Chief Engagement Officer (CEO) – Engagement Multiplier
  • Chief Cheerleader (CEO) – Mid America Motorworks
  • Chief Troublemaker (CEO) – Matrix Group
  • Wizard of Moz (CEO) – Moz